We welcome our subscribers to the latest edition of SafetyNet - a little briefer than normal due to the public holiday on Monday. Nevertheless, the journal is full of news, and as always, please feel free to copy anything of interest and put it up on your work noticeboard.
We invite comments on any of the issues covered - just send an email here. (Please don't 'reply' to your email). If you have a story or an issue you would like covered, contact us as well. It's always a pleasure to get feedback.
And the usual reminder: to keep up to date and informed between editions of SafetyNet, go to our We Are Union: OHS Reps Facebook page, and for those who are HSRs and/or passionate about health and safety, join the OHS Network page, a safe place to raise and discuss issues: check it out and ask to join.
TONIGHT: Live webinar on stress & mental health
You've asked for it a long time, and the OHS Unit is psyched to deliver!
Tonight (Wednesday June 12) at 7:00pm we have Part 1 in a special two part series of OHS Live Shows on stress and mental health issues at work. This topic is in such demand from HSRs that we thought it needed two episodes to do it justice. Tonight Luke and Sam will be joined by Dr Lorraine Harrison, who completed her PhD on the causes of workplace stress. The following show will be a discussion of the potential controls and solutions.
Get your questions ready - and see you tonight - go to our We Are Union: OHS RepsFacebook page at 7pm sharp. Don't miss it!
I am an OHS rep and recently we had an incident where a staff member pulled a top drawer of a filing cabinet open and the whole cabinet tipped over and almost fell on her. Is there any requirement to have cupboards, cabinets and drawers anchored to the floor or wall? What is the employer's duty of care around this situation? I contacted our employer's OHS consultant and they said there was no requirement to anchor the drawers.
I'm sorry - but what a ridiculous response from the OHS 'consultant'!!
Of course he/she is correct in responding that 'there is no requirement'… but this does not mean the employer does nothing (until someone is injured/killed when a heavy cupboard/whatever falls on top of them)!
Under the general duty of care (s21) the employer must provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health – this includes a safe and healthy workplace, and safe use of plant. To do this, the employer must eliminate (or minimise) risks to health and safety (s20). Then, in consultation with the HSR, identify/assess and then control hazards or risks (s35 Duty to consult)
So .. it is clear that there is a hazard and a risk with these drawers (and probably others). There's also a perfectly practicable way to eliminate this risk. And consequently, the employer's duty is absolutely clear - to do something about it, even though there is no specific 'requirement'!
I strongly recommend that you go BACK to the consultant, point the above out, and formally request that controls are implemented in ALL cases where this risk occurs (this will require an identification/assessment process, that you need to be involved in/consulted about).
Give a time frame and then if they don't respond in a satisfactory manner, then consider issuing a PIN. (see Resolution of issues) Note: the consultant may not actually be the employer representative for OHS - if so, you will need to go to that person to resolve the issue. I recommend that you also call the union for assistance.
Please send any OHS related queries in to Ask Renata - your query will be responded to as quickly as we can – usually within a couple of days.
ASEA Fact sheet on chrysotile asbestos
We missed this - but in April the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency released a six-page fact sheet on chrysotile asbestos. Chrysotile is the most common type of asbestos and is the major commercial form of asbestos used globally. The Agency makes it clear that chrysotile can cause mesothelioma.
Download the fact sheet from this page on the ASEA website.
Italy: Supreme Court Asbestos Verdict
Last week it was announced that the Labor Section of Italy's Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) had confirmed a 2014 Court of Appeal sentence condemning Rete Ferroviaria Italian SPA (RFI) – a state-owned holding company of the Italian railway – for exposures which caused the mesothelioma death of a mechanic who had repaired asbestos-insulated railway carriages. It has been estimated that 3,000 people have died from asbestos-related diseases due to exposures working for the State Railways or living near to RFI premises. See: Amianto, la Cassazione conferma la condanna a Rete Ferroviaria Italiana [Asbestos, the Supreme Court confirms the sentencing of Italian Railway Network]. Source: IBAS
Eternit's Global Asbestos Crimes
The global asbestos operations of companies belonging to the Swiss and Belgian Eternit asbestos groups have ruined lives and contaminated communities throughout Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Academic papers released in May 2019 documented the toxic repercussions of asbestos processing in Colombia and Lebanon; another paper published contemporaneously examined the difficulties experienced in holding individual executives to account for the consequences of profit-driven decisions made by asbestos corporations which, ultimately, resulted in the deaths of thousands of Italian citizens. [Read the full article on the IBAS website]
UK: Site firm and director fined for unsafe removal of asbestos
A construction company and its director have been fined after failing to ensure the safe removal of asbestos during demolition work. Sherwood Homes Limited was the client responsible for the demolition of Crowton Mill in Northwich. Peter Kiely was a director of the company when the results of an asbestos survey conducted in January 2017 were received. These identified the presence of asbestos containing materials on the site. The extra work required to remove the asbestos increased the estimated costs and timescale for the completion of the demolition. An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Sherwood Homes Limited failed to ensure suitable contractors were used to carry out the asbestos removal work and demolition of the mill in February 2017. No record of a notification to HSE to remove asbestos had been received for the site. No details of how the asbestos containing materials were removed or how they were disposed were provided to HSE. Sherwood Homes Limited was convicted of a criminal safety offence and fined £170,000 (A$311,000) plus costs of £10,406 (A$19,000) . Company director Peter Kiely pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £6,500 (A$11,900) plus costs of £7,000 (A$12,800). HSE inspector David Norton commented: "Asbestos should only be removed by specialist contractors. Sherwood Homes Ltd and Peter Kiely put workers at risk by not following the correct safety procedures. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards."
Read more: HSE news release. Source Risks 900
Quad bike fight heats up
Our subscribers will be familiar with the dangers of quad bikes, with regular reports of not only workers, but unfortunately also children, being killed when these roll over. After a recent inquiry, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recommended mandatory rollover protection. And yet the ongoing opposition to this recommendation by quad bike manufacturers has led the ACCC's deputy chair Mick Keogh to say they are "playing with lives."
Rollover protection devices, or crash protection devices or operator protection devices (OPD), are normally mounted on the back of the quad bike and are designed to stop the vehicle from rolling on to the rider. However, parts of the quad bike industry have been fighting the recommendation, with Honda and Yamaha both threatening to withdraw their quad bikes and ATVs from the Australian market all together if they become law.
"There is an average of 16 deaths a year from quad bikes, half of those are from rollovers where the person is crushed underneath," Mr Keogh said. And according to Farmsafe Australia, since the early 2000s more than 250 people have been killed in Australia in quad bike related incidents - none of them had an OPD fitted, .
Last week, a 10-year-old boy died after an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) he was driving rolled on a property on the NSW south coast. The four-wheeler flipped at Meroo Meadow, about 15 kilometres north of Nowra, trapping the boy underneath. The boy died at the scene.
Read more: ABC news online
International Union News
Bangladesh: Safety crisis in shipbreaking yards continues
At least eight workers have been killed and 35 injured this year in incidents in Bangladeshi shipbreaking yards, IndustriALL has said. The global unions said the number of fatalities since 2017 is 'around 47', adding: "The series of recent accidents point to a massive safety crisis in the Bangladeshi shipbreaking industry." In incidents last month, five workers were injured in a fire in the Golden Iron Shipbreaking yard on 28 May, two suffering severe burns. One worker was electrocuted on 20 May at the Bhatiari Steel shipbreaking yard. On 15 May, a gas cylinder exploded, and a fire broke out at Mahinur Shipbreaking Yard in Sitakund, killing two workers and hospitalising four others. IndustriALL says employers' negligence, coupled with poor inspections, a lack of implementation of safety measures by authorities, inadequate training on safe shipbreaking methods and workers unable to get appropriate protective equipment are major causes behind the accidents. Kan Matsuzaki, IndustriALL shipbreaking director, said: "The negligence of employers and government officials leads to frequent accidents and the Bangladesh Ship Recycling Act of 2018 needs to be strictly implemented. We reiterate our demand that the Bangladeshi government needs to move faster to ratify and implement the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships." Apoorva Kaiwar, the global union's South Asia regional secretary, added: "It is unacceptable that the lives of shipbreaking workers are put at risk. IndustriALL calls upon the employers and the government to ensure that proper safety measures are in place." Read more: IndustriALL news release. Source: Risks 900
WHO classifies burn-out as a work-related condition
Burn-out has been formally recognised as a work-related health condition by a UN body. A meeting of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) World Health Assembly in May declared burn-out to be an "occupational phenomenon", a step that allows its inclusion in WHO's next edition of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Codenamed 'QD85', burn-out is listed in a parent section on "problems associated with employment or unemployment". According to WHO, burn-out "specifically refers to phenomena related to the professional context and should not be used to describe experiences in other areas of life." The updated International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) will come into force on 1 January 2022. A WHO spokesperson said listing it under "occupational phenomena" but not as a "disease" will mean "that burn-out is not conceptualised as a medical condition, but as an occupational phenomenon." Responding to the WHO listings move, unions in the Philippines called immediately on their government's labour authorities to take action to address workplace burn-out risks.
Read more: ETUI news report. WHO news release and QD85: Burn out, WHO International Classification of Diseases. Source: Risks 900
Asthma risk from cleaning products
Researchers analysing 20 years of UK health surveillance data to 2017 have found that although the overall rate of occupational respiratory disease is in decline, the number of cases caused by exposure to cleaning agents is increasing.
The researchers from the University of Manchester's Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health found almost 800 of approximately 13,000 cases of work-related respiratory disease reported to the system could be attributed to exposure to cleaning products. Fifty-eight per cent of these cases were asthma, 27 per cent involved inhalation incidents, and the other 15 per cent were respiratory diseases like rhinitis, bronchitis, emphysema, allergic alveolitis.
Workers use many different cleaning products which contain common chemical agents including alkalis like bleach and ammonia; acids like acetic acid; and aldehydes like glutaraldehyde and formaldehyde. According to the researchers adverse effects can result from individual or joint application of these chemicals. They say that while certain occupations like healthcare work and cleaning are associated with a higher risk of exposure and adverse health outcomes, their ubiquitous use of such products suggests occupational exposure occurs across a much wider range of occupations and industries.
In the study, they found cleaning product-related respiratory disease was most prevalent in health and social care and manufacturing industries. They found it was frequently reported among workers with occupations in laundering and dry cleaning, nursing, medical technology, cleaning, sports training and officiating, food drink and tobacco processing and elementary process plants.
A recent study suggested a similar exposure mechanism could also be linked to asthma in other groups of workers like cleaners and healthcare workers, and these results were in line with previous studies that found cleaning agents contributed to about nine to 12 per cent of occupational asthma cases.
Read more: Melanie Carder, et al Occupational and work-related respiratory disease attributed to cleaning products [Abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Source: OHSAlert
OHS Regulator News
Health service charged after patient death
In a short media release today, WorkSafe has announced that it has charged Melbourne Health following the death of a patient at its Broadmeadows aged persons mental health unit. The regulator lodged three charges against Melbourne Health under section 23(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act at the Broadmeadows Magistrates Court on 7 June relating to the death on 23 September, 2013.
WorkSafe alleges that Melbourne Health contravened the OHS Act on three occasions when it failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that the 75-year-old male patient was not exposed to risks to his health or safety arising from the conduct of its undertaking. Source: WorkSafe media release
Regulator issues wet weather warning
WorkSafe is today warning employers about the dangers of working in the wet as the state weathers another winter downpour. Construction sites and farms are of particular risk at this time of year, with mud and water logged soil increasing the risk of slips, trips, falls and excavation or trench collapses. Builders and contractors are being urged to regularly assess their sites after any rainfall as dry ground can quickly become soft, muddy and slippery.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said builders and contractors should regularly assess their sites after any rainfall as dry ground could quickly become soft, muddy and slippery. "There were almost 4000 injury claims in the construction industry last year and wet weather can only exacerbate the dangers on-site," Ms Nielsen said. Read more: WorkSafe media release
New Safety Alert
WorkSafe has issued a new Safety Alert about the risks associated with glass panels breaking from child impact at early childhood education and care services. Recently a 5-year-old child at an early childcare education and care service leaned on a window which dislodged, smashing the glass. The child was hospitalised after sustaining a severe wrist laceration.
The incident led to WorkSafe conducting visits to early childhood education and care services, during which a number of windows and doors with glass panels or inserts that may be a safety risk were identified. The Alert provides recommendations on how to control these risks.
Read more: Glass panes at early childhood education and care services
Remember the two events coming up which will provide an opportunity to meet the WorkSafe Agriculture Practice Team. If anyone has any farm safety issues they would like to discuss, try to get along to one of these. The team at the WorkSafe stand is keen to have a chat, hear about approaches to managing on-farm safety and about any new and innovative safety solutions. There will be information and guidance materials for people to take away.
- Mallee Machinery Field Days
When: Wednesday 31 July - Thursday 1 August, 8:30am to 5:00pm
Where: Speed Airport, 2574 Sunraysia Hwy, Speed VIC 3488
When: Sunday 04 Aug 2019
Where: CRT Innovations Hub, Hamilton Showgrounds, Shakespeare St, Hamilton
WA: Checklist for stone benchtop fabrication and installation
The WA Department of Mines Industry Regulation and Safety has developed a checklist [pdf] for employers and workers engaged in the fabrication and installation of stone benchtops. The checklist highlights safety issues with a focus on silica hazards. It provides information on how to best manage those risks to minimise negative outcomes through compliance with occupational safety and health legislation.
Queensland: Mobile health screening for coal workers
The Queensland Government last week announced in its budget $1.2 million over two years to fund a mobile health screening service for coal workers, to improve the detection of coal workers' pneumoconiosis (black lung), silicosis and other mine dust lung diseases.
Safe Work Australia news
There has been an update to the notified fatalities on the Safe Work Australia site: as of June 6, there had been 64 fatalities notified to the national body. This is eight more in the time since its last update on May 16 The workers killed came from the following industries:
- 23 in Transport, postal & warehousing
- 15 in Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 11 in Construction
- 7 in Public Administration & safety
- 4 in Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 2 in Mining
- 1 in manufacturing
- 1 in 'Other services'
Plumbing company fined for height-related risks
Plumbing company K.C. & T.L. Murray Pty Ltd was on 16 March 2018 engaged to replace a gas hot water system on the roof of a three storey building. On 24 March 2018 WorkSafe received two photographs and video footage of the work being undertaken.
The company was using an Elevating Work Platform (EWP) on the back of a truck to access the roof of the building. An employee, operating the EWP from its basket, was using it to remove the old hot water system and pass the new hot water system up to an apprentice and the Company Director. There was no edge protection for those on the roof and no safety harness or guard railing in place. There was a risk of a fall from a height greater than 2 metres. There was also a risk of the EWP becoming unstable and tipping over as it was not on a solid level surface and remained on a vehicle.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching section 21 of the OHS Act, and was, without conviction, fined $7,500, plus costs of $3,592
To check all of the recent prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
QLD: company fined $250k for work near powerlines
Last week SafetyNet reported that Victorian company Rainshield Roofing Pty Ltd was without conviction fined $25,000 plus costs of $4,022 over an incident in which the handrail of the scissor lift made contact with both high and low voltage overhead power lines - luckily the two workers in the scissor lift were not injured. This week OHSAlertreports that Queensland billboard company Paradise Outdoor Building Company Pty Ltd found guilty, in the Mackay Magistrates Court, of breaching the State Electrical Safety Act 2002, after one of its employees received an electric shock from a 33 kilovolt overhead powerline while changing the skin on an advertising sign in 2016, was fined $250,000 (and costs of $7,475). The investigation and prosecution was carried out by the Queensland Electrical Safety Office.
The company failed to implement readily available measures to eliminate the risk of workers receiving an electric shock from a powerline: contacting the relevant power company and asking for the powerline to be raised (which it did after the incident at a cost of just $4,500), and properly training to its workers on exclusion zones and the need to stay at least three metres away from overhead powerlines
UK: Floor layer killed by toxic fumes
Both the chemical supplier and flooring company were fined over lack of safety precautions which resulted in the death of a floor layer in the UK.
Westminster Magistrates' Court heard that on 4 September 2015, the 30-year-old worker was found dead on the bathroom floor by the owner of the house he was working in. The adhesive used to fix the flooring contained a large amount of the toxic substance dichloromethane.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that T Brown Group Ltd had not implemented any systems or procedures to adequately control the risks to its employees from working in an enclosed space with a substance known to be hazardous to health. The decision on whether to wear respiratory protection (face masks) or on what type of respiratory protection should be used was left up to employees. The worker was found to be wearing a completely ineffectual face mask.
Altro Limited, the flooring company that supplied the adhesive, was found not to have ensured so far as reasonably practicable that the product supplied was safe to use at all times.
T Brown Group Ltd pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £250,000 (A$455,498) and ordered to pay full costs of £23,936 (A$43,611. Altro Limited also pleaded guilty to a breach of the Act and was fined £500,000 (A$911,005) and ordered to pay full costs of £34,773 (A$63,357).
Sth Korea: Samsung victim wins compensation after decades-long fight
A victim of occupational cancer caused by toxic exposures while working at Samsung has won a decade long fight for compensation. On 5 June 2019, Han Hye-kyung was notified her workers' compensation claim had been approved by the South Korean compensation authority KCOMWEL.
Han, 41, was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of 27 in 2005. Four years earlier, in 2001, she had resigned from Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, where she had handled hazardous chemicals while soldering together LCD parts for six years. Han was only 17-years-old and still in high school when she began to work at Samsung. Read more: Cancer Hazards